The vertebrae of the spine are cushioned by soft discs in each facet joint. A herniated disc occurs when the tough outer layer of the disc, called the annulus, is torn or damaged, and some of the softer inner portion, called the nucleus, slips out. A herniated disc is also referred to as a bulging, slipped, or ruptured disc.
A herniated disc can be caused by anything that puts pressure on the spine, even normal daily activities. Lifting with your back instead of your legs is a common cause of herniated discs. Lifting a heavy object while simultaneously turning can also rupture a disc.
Herniated discs can occur anywhere in the spine, but they are most common in the lower back. The symptoms of a herniated disc that you experience will depend on where in the spine the herniated disc is located and whether or not the herniated disc is pressing on a nerve. Some symptoms you may experience include:
Between each of the 24 vertebrae in your spine, rubbery spinal discs act as cushions between the vertebrae. These discs act as shock absorbers in your spine to keep you comfortable while you move, run, jump, bend, etc. Without your spinal discs, the bones in your spine would rub together, causing pain and limiting your movement.
Each of these spinal discs is made of a soft, jelly-like substance called the nucleus surrounded by a tougher exterior shell called the annulus. When the annulus ruptures and some of the jelly-like inside pushes outside the disc, this is called a herniated disc. It’s also referred to as a slipped disc, a ruptured disc, or a prolapsed disc.
You may have a herniated disc and not even know it. Some people experience no symptoms of a herniated disc.
When a herniated disc irritates a nearby nerve, this is when symptoms occur. When you have a herniated disc that is irritating a nerve or nerves, you may experience:
A bulging disc is not the same as a herniated disc. With a bulging disc, the disc itself has become flattened and bulges out between the vertebrae. There is no tear involved in a bulging disc, as the outer layer of the disc itself is intact. A bulging disc may push out evenly all the way around, but it’s more common for only part of the disc to bulge.
With a herniated disc, the soft inner portion of the disc bulges out though a tear in the outer layer.
As we age, our discs weaken and become less flexible in a natural process called disc degeneration. This weakness makes them more likely to tear as a result of minor twists, turns, or movements. Certain activities can also make a herniated disc more likely to occur. Lifting a heavy object with the back instead of the legs is a common cause of herniated discs.
Some people are more likely to experience a ruptured disc than others. Some things that make you more likely to rupture a disc include:
If your herniated disc pain isn’t severe, OTC pain relievers and avoiding movements that cause herniated disc pain often resolve symptoms in days or weeks. For more severe pain, other methods may be prescribed, such as:
When more conservative herniated disc treatments don’t provide the right level of relief, herniated disc surgery may the right option. Your surgeon may recommend one or a combination of these surgeries to relieve your herniated disc pain.
The most common herniated disc surgery is called a discectomy. In a discectomy, your surgeon will remove the portion of the disc that is protruding and causing your herniated disc pain and weakness.
In some cases, the entire disc must be removed and the vertebrae on each side fused together with spinal fusion surgery. This surgery involves using a piece of your own bone or a bone graft from a donor to fuse the vertebrae together. While the healing process is occurring over several months, pins and/or screws will hold your spine in place for proper healing and stability.
In a laminectomy, your surgeon will go in and relieve the pressure on the affected nerves by making an opening in your vertebral arch, called the lamina.
Make an appointment with Tennessee Orthopaedic Clinics today. You don’t have to suffer when help is right in your hometown. Call us today.